Monday, February 4, 2008

Rites, Valentines, and 2008

January starts off with the bang and fizz of parties and gatherings still bubbling up after being catapulted across the threshhold of a new year. Then there comes a flurry of activity as we prepare and plan for just how to fill the 365 new days of this new year, resolutions flying higgledy-piggledy everywhere. I just duck and cover. Too much talking and prattle and planning. Huh-uh. I like to start off slow, propel gently into the new year, get to know Mr. 2008 before I impose all my rules and regulations on him. I was very comfortable with Mr. 2007; we'd grown quite close and celebrated much together but it was time to bid farewell ready or not. I've decided Mr. '08 is fairly nice so far, although he's fascinated with snow and I am not. Well, first things first I have to teach this new guy a thing or two, establish some ground rules. I think your Mr. 2008 would agree. So this weekend February rolled in with a soft bounce and I was ready.

Mr. 2008, I would like to begin our time together by teaching you about the importance of the sugar cookie.

There are some things that equate the very celebration of a holiday. You know what I'm talking about, when one thing immediately brings to mind the other? In the very anticipation, preparation, and assembly you are building something much bigger. For me, this phenomenon presents itself on most holidays, especially Christmas. Preparing Christmas Eve dinner is as much about the preparation, the experience of cooking and being together, as the meal itself...maybe more. You might call it the rite of the holiday.

Now there just doesn't come a Valentine's Day that I don't get a deep-down, bottom of the belly tug for soft sugar cookies, more so than any other time of year (hmmm, Halloween takes a close second). I shy away from most roll-out cookies any other time - too much fuss. But come February these babies are one of those rites I was talking about.

When you mix the flour and sugar in the bowl, it's part of the celebration. When you roll them out, it's part of the celebration. When they dive happily into the warm frosting, it's part of the celebration. When precious little hands excitedly cover their every square millimeter with sugary candy, yup, part of the celebration. And eating them, well, this is the grand culmination, an important part of the celebration, but still only a part. I really love a yummy box of chocolates, but if it came down to a choice between that and my long-standing, memory-building cookie tradition? I bet you can guess which one I'd choose.

We couldn't imagine the thought of anyone missing out! Diets and other bad guys stand clear because we're teaching Mr. 2008 that the Valentine sugar cookie is here to stay.

Sugar Cookies with Fondant Glaze
Makes approximately 2 dozen three-inch cookies

These cookies are soft and utterly eatable. We girls all think they're even better than the butter and egg laden traditional sugar cookie. And you'll just have to believe us until you can see for yourself, so rev up your mixing bowl 'cuz something darn good is coming your way.

These are made with a butter substitute (we've successfully tried regular Benecol and Smart Balance, but not the light versions) and egg substitute (readily found in most supermarkets, usually right by the eggs). Just like regular butter, butter substitutes have fat in them, though of the heart-healthy variety, so it is still a good idea not to eat this by the spoonful! Egg substitutes are basically pasturized egg whites, but a little easier to cook with since you just pour them. If you desire, you can use the same measurement of egg white, obtained the old fashioned way by cracking the egg open and disposing of the yolk.

1 1/2 c powdered sugar, carefully spooned into measuring cup and leveled with a knife

1/2 c butter substitute

1/4 c egg substitute or egg white

1 t almond extract

1/2 t vanilla extract

2 1/2 c flour, carefully spooned into measuring cup and leveled with a knife

1 t baking soda

1 t cream of tartar

1/2 t salt

Mix the powdered sugar, butter substitute, egg substitute, and extracts together. Add the flour, baking soda, cream of tartar, and salt and mix until incorporated. Chill dough for 2 hours. Heat oven to 375. Roll dough to about 1/3 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes. Place on lightly sprayed cookie sheet and bake for 5 to 7 minutes, depending on your oven. Cookies should not start to brown. It's important not to overbake; cookies will feel set but not firm leaving a very slight indent from fingertip. May be helpful to do a test run with with a scrap before running a whole batch through.

Fondant Glaze

2 lb powdered sugar (they come in 2 lb bags at the store)
½ c water
½ c light corn syrup
1 t almond extract
½ t vanilla (you can play around with the flavorings, making sure to keep them to 1 1/2 t)

Combine all ingredients in top of a double boiler (can be created by settling a glass mixing bowl into the top of a pot filled with water, making sure that the bowl doesn't touch the bottom of the pot). Heat the mixture in the double boiler just to lukewarm. Remove the double boiler from the burner, but keep the mixing bowl immersed in the hot water to keep mixture thin. Add a drop or two of food coloring as desired. As you spend time frosting the cookies it may be necessary to add hot water, a few drops at a time, to maintain the consistency that you want. Spread on quickly with a pastry brush or just grasp the cookie by the outer edges, turn over, and dunk the entire face in the glaze. Suspend momentarily above the pot so the excess can drip off and then place on cooling rack to set (I use this method and it is lightning fast, if a little messy for the fingertips).


Andi Sherwood said...

Hi Janelle. I am very excited about your blog. I tried this recipe today and it ended up being very dry and crumbly. Any suggestions? I love sugar cookies!


Alice said...

Dear Andi,
SO sory you had a problem with the sugar cookies. This very morning I made another batch of the cookies to see if I could trouble shoot your difficulty. There are two possibilities that may have caused the dryness and, or crumbly texture: First, these cookies MUST NOT be overbaked. They are done when the top is set. They must be removed from the oven before the edges even begin to turn color. We don't want them doughy, but just set. Next, the flour quantity is a measurement that easily varies from cook to cook, depending on your method. I spoon my flour into the cup and level it with a knife. I suggest that you add the first 2 cups and then add whatever you need of the last half cup to achieve a dough that isn't sticky, but not heavy and crumbly. You shouldn't have to press the dough together to get it in a ball. This dough does have to be refrigerated for best handling. When I'm in a hurry, I lightly spray a pie plate or shallow pan and press the dough in a thinner layer and put it in my freezer for 15-20 minutes. By the time I've cleaned up my mixing mess, the cookie dough is ready to roll out and bake. One more note, the cookies can be rolled in sugar before baking and be pretty yummy, but the fondant glaze helps give a greater moistness and real confection character to the cookie.

I hope this is helpful. This is a recipe that we have used over and over, so I'm confident that with the above cautions, you will be successful. Thanks so much for your comments and questions. We want you to all be successful with our recipes, and we won't know how to help if you hesitate to pass on your frustrations!! Happy Baking!!

brittany said...

I'm so excited about this blog! so yummy and beautiful!

so here's my question: If I don't have substitutes, will it still work? Like if I use regular eggs and real butter? (I know, I know, that's not the point of having a lite recipe, but I'm naughty like that:)

janelle said...

If you use the same proportions, like measuring out the same amount of regular eggs (you could use egg whites), and such, then I'd think it would. One difference is that this recipe uses less butter than in a regular cookie recipe, so that's something to be happy about regardless. Hope it turns out great!